Featured post

About gynocentrism

Gynocentrism n. (Greek, γυνή, “female” – Latin centrum, “centred” ) refers to a dominant or exclusive focus on women in theory or practice; or to the advocacy of this.1 Anything can be considered gynocentric (Adj.) when it is concerned exclusively with a female (or specifically a feminist) point of view.2

[see here for more dictionary definitions of gynocentrism]

Introduction

Modern gynocentrism is facilitated by three interrelated pressures, the first biological and the subsequent two being cultural developments:

Gynocentrism 1:0 refers to basic instinctual behavior inherited from our hominid ancestors for prioritizing female reproductive capacity; that is, we tend to protect and provide for women and children as a way to encourage survival of our species, a tendency reinforced by varying local customs throughout history until the Middle Ages, when a confluence of cultural factors came together to create gynocentrism 2:0 →

Gynocentrism 2:0 – refers to a cultural intensification of the gynocentric tendency, arising in Medieval Europe during a period cross-cultural influences and momentous changes in gendered customs. Beginning in around the 12th century European society birthed an intersection of Arabic practices of female worship, aristocratic courting trends, the Marian cult, along with the imperial patronage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her daughter Marie De Champagne who together elaborated the military notion of chivalry into a notion of servicing ladies, a practice otherwise known as ‘courtly love.’

Courtly love was enacted by minstrels, playrights and troubadours, and especially via hired romance-writers like Chrétien de Troyes and Andreas Capellanus who laid down a model of romantic fiction that is still the biggest grossing genre of literature today. That confluence of factors generated the cultural conventions that continue to drive gynocentrism today, which was consolidated by one significant further development →

Gynocentrism 3:0, which refers to the developed economy with service industry where women can enter labour force and gain financial independence from men, which (1) creates demand for more rights vis-a-vis men because there is no longer a trade-off as in traditional relationships, and (2) renders women free to pursue increasing degrees of relational status as desired. These factors, in combination with the contraceptive pill, have given gynocentrism increased motility.3

Gynocentrism as a cultural phenomenon

The primary elements of gynocentric culture, as we experience it today, are derived from practices originating in medieval society such as feudalism, chivalry and courtly love that continue to inform contemporary society in subtle ways. Such gynocentric patters constitute a “sexual feudalism,” as attested by female writers like Lucrezia Marinella who in 1600 AD recounted that women of lower socioeconomic classes were treated as superiors by men who acted as servants or beasts born to serve them, or by Modesta Pozzo who in 1590 wrote;

“don’t we see that men’s rightful task is to go out to work and wear themselves out trying to accumulate wealth, as though they were our factors or stewards, so that we can remain at home like the lady of the house directing their work and enjoying the profit of their labors? That, if you like, is the reason why men are naturally stronger and more robust than us — they need to be, so they can put up with the hard labor they must endure in our service.”4

The golden casket above depicting scenes of servile behaviour toward women were typical of courtly love culture of the Middle Ages. Such objects were given to women as gifts by men seeking to impress. Note the woman standing with hands on hips in a position of authority, and the man being led around by a neck halter, his hands clasped in a position of subservience.

It’s clear that much of what we today call gynocentrism was invented in the Middle Ages with the cultural practices of romantic chivalry and courtly love. In 12th century Europe, feudalism served as the basis for a new model for love in which men were to play the role of vassal to women who played the role of an idealized Lord.

C.S. Lewis, back in the middle of the 20th Century, referred to this historical revolution as “the feudalisation of love,” and stated that it has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched. “Compared with this revolution,” states Lewis, “the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature.”5 Lewis further states;

“Everyone has heard of courtly love, and everyone knows it appeared quite suddenly at the end of the eleventh century at Languedoc. The sentiment, of course, is love, but love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, and the Religion of Love. The lover is always abject. Obedience to his lady’s lightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim. Here is a service of love closely modelled on the service which a feudal vassal owes to his lord. The lover is the lady’s ‘man’. He addresses her as midons, which etymologically represents not ‘my lady’ but ‘my lord’. The whole attitude has been rightly described as ‘a feudalisation of love’. This solemn amatory ritual is felt to be part and parcel of the courtly life.” 6

With the advent of (initially courtly) women being elevated to the position of ‘Lord’ in intimate relationships, and with this general sentiment diffusing to the masses and across much of the world today, we are justified in talking of a gynocentric cultural complex that affects, among other things, relationships between men and women. Further, unless evidence of widespread gynocentric culture can be found prior to the Middle Ages, then  gynocentrism is precisely 800 years old. In order to determine if this thesis is valid we need to look further at what we mean by “gynocentrism”.

The term gynocentrism has been in circulation since the 1800’s, with the general definition being “focused on women; concerned with only women.” 7 From this definition we see that gynocentrism could refer to any female-centered practice, or to a single gynocentric act carried out by one individual. There is nothing inherently wrong with a gynocentric act (eg. celebrating Mother’s Day) , or for that matter an androcentric act (celebrating Father’s Day). However when a given act becomes instituted in the culture to the exclusion of other acts we are then dealing with a hegemonic custom — i.e. such is the relationship custom of elevating women to the position of men’s social, moral or spiritual superiors.

Author of Gynocentrism Theory Adam Kostakis has attempted to expand the definition of gynocentrism to refer to “male sacrifice for the benefit of women” and “the deference of men to women,” and he concludes; “Gynocentrism, whether it went by the name honor, nobility, chivalry, or feminism, its essence has gone unchanged. It remains a peculiarly male duty to help the women onto the lifeboats, while the men themselves face a certain and icy death.” 8

While we can agree with Kostakis’ descriptions of assumed male duty, the phrase gynocentric culture more accurately carries his intention than gynocentrism alone. Thus when used alone in the context of this website gynocentrism refers to part or all of gynocentric culture, which is defined here as any culture instituting rules for gender relationships that benefit females at the expense of males across a broad range of measures.

At the base of gynocentric culture lies the practice of enforced male sacrifice for the benefit of women. If we accept this definition we must look back and ask whether male sacrifices throughout history were always made for the sake women, or alternatively for the sake of some other primary goal? For instance, when men went to die in vast numbers in wars, was it for women, or was it rather for Man, King, God and Country? If the latter we cannot then claim that this was a result of some intentional gynocentric culture, at least not in the way I have defined it here. If the sacrifice isn’t intended directly for the benefit women, even if women were occasional beneficiaries of male sacrifice, then we are not dealing with gynocentric culture.

Male utility and disposability strictly “for the benefit of women” comes in strongly only after the advent of the 12th century gender revolution in Europe – a revolution that delivered us terms like gallantry, chivalry, chivalric love, courtesy, damsels, romance and so on. From that period onward gynocentric practices grew exponentially, culminating in the demands of today’s feminist movement. In sum, gynocentrism (ie. gynocentric culture) was a patchy phenomenon at best before the middle ages, after which it became ubiquitous.

With this in mind it makes little sense to talk of gynocentric culture starting with the industrial revolution a mere 200 years ago (or 100 or even 30 yrs ago), or of it being two million years old as some would argue. We are not only fighting two million years of genetic programming; our culturally constructed problem of gender inequity is much simpler to pinpoint and to potentially reverse. All we need do is look at the circumstances under which gynocentric culture first began to flourish and attempt to reverse those circumstances. Specifically, that means rejecting the illusions of romantic love (feudalised love), along with the practices of misandry, male shaming and servitude that ultimately support it.

La Querelle des Femmes, and advocacy for women

The Querelle des Femmes translates as the “quarrel about women” and amounts to what we might today call a gender-war. The querelle had its beginning in twelfth century Europe and finds its culmination in the feminist-driven ideology of today (though some authors claim, unconvincingly, that the querelle came to an end in the 1700s). The basic theme of the centuries-long quarrel revolved, and continues to revolve, around advocacy for the rights, power and status of women, and thus Querelle des Femmes serves as the originating title for gynocentric discourse.

If we consider the longevity of this revolution we might be inclined to agree with Barbarossaaa’s claim “that feminism is a perpetual advocacy machine for women”.

To place the above events into a coherent timeline, chivalric servitude toward women was elaborated and given patronage first under the reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1137-1152) and instituted culturally throughout Europe over the subsequent 200 year period. After becoming thus entrenched on European soil there arose the Querelle des Femmes which refers to the advocacy culture that arose for protecting, perpetuating and increasing female power in relation to men that continues, in an unbroken tradition, in the efforts of contemporary feminism.9

Writings from the Middle Ages forward are full of testaments about men attempting to adapt to the feudalisation of love and the serving of women, along with the emotional agony, shame and sometimes physical violence they suffered in the process. Gynocentric chivalry and the associated querelle have not received much elaboration in men’s studies courses to-date, but with the emergence of new manuscripts and quality English translations it may be profitable to begin blazing this trail.10

References

1. Oxford English Dictionary – Vers.4.0 (2009), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199563838
2. Oxford English Dictionary 2010
3. Three points elaborated during online conversation with Snir, October 2016
4. Modesta Pozzo, The Worth of Women: their Nobility and Superiority to Men
5. C.S. Lewis, Friendship, chapter in The Four Loves, HarperCollins, 1960
6. C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love, Oxford University Press, 1936
7. Dictionary.com – Gynocentric
8. Adam Kostakis, Gynocentrism Theory – (Published online, 2011). Although Kostakis assumes gynocentrism has been around throughout recorded history, he singles out the Middle Ages for comment: “There is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism… One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures.”
9. Joan Kelly, Early Feminist Theory and the Querelle des Femmes (1982), reprinted in Women, History and Theory, UCP (1984)
10. The New Male Studies Journal has published thoughtful articles touching on the history and influence of chivalry in the lives of males.

Querelle du Mariage

In the premodern period there existed a movement called the Querelle des Femmes or quarrel about women, which approximates what we today refer to as the debate between feminists and antifeminists. Generally speaking the centuries-long querelle revolved around discussion of the rights, power and status of women which displayed, at its extremes, hatred of women on the one hand (misogyny), and extreme adoration or love of women on the other (philogyny).

Isaac Newton proposed the law that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction and, by extension, we could say the same for trends within human society. By this reasoning we can assume a counterpoint to the querelle des femmes would have been in full force from the Middle ages through to the modern period. But what form did it take?

As you will read below, the querelle des femmes was part of the general quarrel between the sexes (querelle des sexes) in which men and women argued in favor of their respective issues. In that context surely men had something more to say for themselves beyond obsessing with the status of women alone; what about their own experiences as men, and where was that experience most detrimentally played out?

Marriage, in a word, is one place where men’s concerns most critically clustered.

During the pre-modern period men’s issues resembled the same concerns of today’s MGTOW and Men’s Human Rights Movement which speaks to discrimination against males in the relational sphere – both public and private.

I recently chanced upon an article which outlined that deeper history under the heading the querelle du mariage or quarrel about marriage. Being a chicken and egg scenario we cannot easily determine whether the querelle du mariage or the querelle des femmes came first, however it is clear that the two traditions served as vehicles for male and female advocacy respectively.

The following book excerpt provides more detail about this tradition:

The early manifestations of the quarrel often focus on marriage, one of the pressing problems of the late Middle Ages and the early modern period:  An uxor sit ducenda (Should One Take a Wife) was a question much discussed by Italian men, and in Germany it could appear as Ob einem manne sey zu nemen ein eelichs weyb oder nit (Should a Man Take a Wife or Not? – Albrecht von Eyb, 1472). In answer to this question male misogamy (hatred of marriage) is expressed as misogyny (hatred of women) and philogyny (love of women) as philogamy (love of marriage).

Christine de Pizan’s praise of women was directed against the misogamists and misogynists of her time, the anonymous text Les quinze joies de mariage (The Fifteen Joys of Marriage)  deplored the loss of male liberty in marriage, and a century later Erasmus of Rotterdam presented the misogamist virgin in his Virgo misogamos (The Misogamist Virgin – 1523), who desperately wants to enter a convent but inspired by love she thinks better of it at the last moment. Philogynous texts questioned why women were punished more strictly for adultery than men or why a husband had to be brought (by a dowry); misogamists and misogynists, eg. In England, answered the question by stating that women tend to squeeze money out of their husbands.

In Germany this aspect of the querelle has been largely ignored (interest has focused on voices which argued in favor of women’s intelligence and reason), although the querelle du mariage played an important role here: the wide-ranging marriage debate during the Reformation, in particular in its sensational and scandalous early phases – public betrothals of monks and nuns, closures of monasteries and convents, an epidemic of marriages in Germany to which even French reformers travelled who wished to marry – must be read as an integral part of the European querelle des sexes and the same goes for the marriage debates of the Counter-Reformation. Martin Luther’s Von chelichen Leben (The Estate of Married Life – 1522) speaks quite in the manner of a querelle text by turning against the traditional misogamist attitude:

“What we would speak most of is the fact that the estate of marriage has universally fallen into such awful disrepute. There are many pagan books which treat of nothing but the depravity of womankind and the unhappiness of the estate of marriage […]. So they [young men listening to the advice of a Roman official] concluded that woman is a necessary evil, and that no household can be without such an evil. […] For this reason young men should be on their guard when they read pagan books and hear the common complaints about marriage, lest they inhale poison . For the estate of marriage does not sell well with the devil, because it is God’s good will and work. This is why the devil has contrived to have so much shouted and written in the world against the institution of marriage […]. The world says of marriage, ‘Brief is the joy, lasting the bitterness.”1

Source:

[1] Gisela Bock and Margarete Zimmerman, The European Querelle des Femmes, in Medieval Forms of Argument: Disputation and Debate (p.134).

Marc Rudov: Similarities between sexes far outweighs differences

RudovOnRadio

Marc Rudov

A few years ago Marc Rudov was a powerful voice for men and advocate of more sane relationships, before he shifted away from the topic and into other spheres of interest – mainly to his career in marketing. Rudov was not a fan of the ‘men and women are different’ narrative, and he appeared to take seriously the finding that from the total number of human genes, men and women share 99% of them, leaving a mere 1% difference.

Feminists and men’s rights activists, not to mention most MGTOW and PUAs, tend to focus exclusively on that 1% of genetic difference.  With such help from the manosphere, feminists appear to have won the upper hand precisely due to that championing of difference – regardless of whether the differences ultimately be considered biological, sociological or both in origin. The reason male and female ‘difference’ has helped feminists so much is because it garners chivalry – and conversely ‘sameness’ gains no such chivalry.

Chivalry lays at the root of every success feminists have achieved.

Today, gender warriors on both sides tend to be totalizing in their emphasis on difference because that’s the myth they live by and gain power from, making them somewhat anxious at departing from that existential anchor.

However the human psyche is wildly open to variable expression, much more so than most animals it seems, which is one of the reasons Marc Rudov found himself at odds with the manosphere. It would be interesting to ask him if it was the deal breaker that saw him turn his back on the movement. Whatever the case, Rudov held firmly to the view men and women are basically the same – at least in potential – as we read in the following quote:

[Rudov] “I’ve recently published a book about women and know them well. My true education in all things feminine began almost 12 years ago, when I became reimmersed in the single world after my divorce. During this post-marriage odyssey with the “opposite” sex, I learned that women are not so opposite and are, in fact, much like men. To me, this is no longer a debate; it is fact. Now, we hear almost daily from anthropologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed psychotherapists, so-called life coaches, movies, books, magazines, TV, radio, parents, friends, lovers, and standup comics that men and women are wired differently and hopelessly incompatible. We are coached to accept, embrace, and gingerly navigate these differences. Nonsense, I say. If you believe this propaganda, you are part of the problem.”

“If you’re honest with yourself, you cannot find many real differences between men and women. The differences you’ve always thought about are socialized differences based on myths. If women were as different and mythical as the so-called experts would have you believe, they’d never be able to run major corporations, cities, states, and nations. When we stop behaving according to our socialized programming, our stereotypical roles, we are surprisingly similar. This behavioral shift is the solution for making our romances more harmonious and successful.”

His words here are very much at odds with the usual emphasis in the manosphere, but it nevertheless didn’t stop him being one of the most powerful voices ever to speak on gendered issues in spite of – or perhaps because of – his view of men and women as made of precisely the same stuff.  Whether he was right or wrong, his perspective had a considerable influence on the current debate.

___________________


Further reading:
Feminism, sex-differences and chivalry

M. Scott Peck: The Myth of Romantic Love

The following excerpt is from M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Travelled.

________________________

img_2385

The Myth of Romantic Love

To serve as effectively as it does to trap us into marriage, the experience of falling in love probably must have as one of its characteristics the illusion that the experience will last forever.  This illusion is fostered in our culture by the commonly held myth of romantic love, which has its origins in our favorite childhood fairy tales, wherein the prince and princess, once united, live happily forever after.

The myth of romantic love tells us, in effect, that for every young man in the world there is a young woman who was “meant for him,” and vice versa. Moreover, the myth implies that there is only one man meant for a woman and only one woman for a man and this has been predetermined “in the stars.” When we meet the person for whom we are intended, recognition comes through the fact that we fall in love. We have met the person for whom all the heavens intended us, and since the match is perfect, we will then be able to satisfy all of each other’s needs forever and ever, and therefore live happily forever after in perfect union and harmony.

Should it come to pass, however, that we do not satisfy or meet all of each other’s needs and friction arises and we fall out of love, then it is clear that a dreadful mistake was made, we misread the stars, we did not hook up with our one and only perfect match, what we thought was love was not real or “true” love, and nothing can be done about the situation except to live unhappily ever after or get divorced.

While I generally find that great myths are great precisely because they represent and embody great universal truths (and will explore several such myths later in this book), the myth of romantic love is a dreadful lie. Perhaps it is a necessary lie in that it ensures the survival of the species by its encouragement and seeming validation of the falling-in-love experience that traps us into marriage. But as a psychiatrist I weep in my heart almost daily for the ghastly confusion and suffering that this myth fosters.

Millions of people waste vast amounts of energy desperately and futilely attempting to make the reality of their lives conform to the unreality of the myth. Mrs. A. subjugates herself absurdly to her husband out of a feeling of guilt. “I didn’t really love my husband when we married,” she says. “I pretended I did. I guess I tricked him into it, ‘so I have no right to complain about him, and I owe it to him to do whatever he wants.”

Mr. B. laments: “I regret I didn’t marry Miss C. I think we could have had a good marriage. But I didn’t feel head over heels in love with her, so I assumed she couldn’t be the right person for me.”

Mrs. D., married for two years, becomes severely depressed without apparent cause, and enters therapy stating: “I don’t know what’s wrong. I’ve got everything I need, including a perfect marriage.” Only months later can she accept the fact that she has fallen out of love with her husband but that this does not mean that she made a horrible mistake.

Mr. E., also married two years, begins to suffer intense headaches in the evenings and can’t believe they are psychosomatic. “My home life is fine. I love my wife as much as the day I married her. She’s everything I ever wanted,” he says. But his headaches don’t leave him until a year later, when he is able to admit, “She bugs the hell out of me the way she is always wanting, wanting, wanting things without regard to my salary,” and then is able to confront her with her extravagance.

Mr. and Mrs. F. acknowledge to each other that they have fallen out of love and then proceed to make each other miserable by mutual rampant infidelity as they each search for the one “true love,” not realizing that their very acknowledgment could mark the beginning of the work of their marriage in-stead of its end.

Even when couples have acknowledged that the honeymoon is over, that they are no longer romantically in love with each other and are able still to be committed to their relationship, they still cling to the myth and attempt to conform their lives to it. “Even though we have fallen out of love, if we act by sheer will power as if we still were in love, then maybe romantic love will return to our lives,” their thinking goes.

These couples prize togetherness. When they enter couples group therapy (which is the setting in which my wife and I and our close colleagues conduct most serious marriage counseling), they sit together, speak for each other, defend each other’s faults and seek to present to the rest of the group a united front, believing this unity to be a sign of the relative health of their marriage and a prerequisite for its improvement. Sooner or later, and usually sooner, we must tell most couples that they are too much married, too closely coupled, and that they need to establish some psychological distance from each other before they can even begin to work constructively on their problems.

Sometimes it is actually necessary to physically separate them, directing them to sit apart from each other in the group circle. It is always necessary to ask them to refrain from speaking for each other or defending each other against the group. Over and over again we must say, “Let Mary speak for herself, John,” and “John can defend himself, Mary, he’s strong enough.” Ultimately, if they stay in therapy, all couples learn that a true acceptance of their own and each other’s individuality and separateness is the only foundation upon which a mature marriage can be based and real love can grow.

Man in medieval Baghdad foolishly behaved as a courtly lover

By Douglas Galbi

singing slave girl

A young man pretending to be an aristocrat arrived at a banquet in eleventh-century Baghdad. A slave girl  — beautiful, highly cultured, and wealthy — was singing there. She enthralled him.

In fashionable devotion to the singing slave girl, the young man refrained from eating even though he was dying of hunger. He became inebriated from drinking sweet date wine. Then the love-struck young man saw roses. He grabbed them and ate them. The slave girl whispered behind her tambourine to her master:

By God, I beg of you, call for something for this young man to eat, or else his shit will become honeyed rose jam!

The singing slave girl cared for the foolish young man.

The young man was dressed in only a brocade robe. The night was cold. He began to shiver, and his teeth chatter. He said to the slave girl, “I want to embrace you.” She said to him, “You poor thing, you need to embrace an outer garment more than to embrace me, if you had any sense!” She had worldly good sense. He was a foolish courtly lover. He left deeply wounded by her sensible words.

As foolish courtly lovers do, the young man then wooed the slave girl with letters. He wrote to her of “his love and his follies, his insomnia at night, his tossing and turning in bed as if he were lying on a hot frying pain, and his inability to eat and drink.” The shrewd narrator of the story added that the young man wrote “of such like vacuous drivel, which has no use or benefit” to men in love. The singing slave girl naturally rejected the vacuous drivel of the courtly lover.

Badly educated, the courtly lover turned to literary imagination and poetry. He wrote to the slave girl:

Since you have forbidden me to visit you, or to ask you to visit me, then order, by God, your specter to visit me at night, and quench the heat of my heart.

Guide me to your specter so that
I may claim a rendezvous with it.

Another poem:

If your abstinence is a come-on,
show your specter the way to me.

The young man sought to travel to meet the slave girl’s spirit, or to have it come to him. In worldly love, a spirit is a poor substitute for a flesh-and-blood woman.

With compassion and boldness, the singing slave girl taught the foolish man actually how to achieve his aim. She sent a message to him:

Woe upon you, you poor thing, I’ll do something for you that is better for you than my specter visiting you at night. Put two gold coins in a purse and I’ll come to you and that will be that.

In courting sophisticated slave girls in medieval Baghdad, poetry was much less useful than gold coins.

As the above story indicates, the eleventh-century Islamic world had both the intellectual capability and freedom to criticize the men-debasing ideology of courtly love. In western Europe, benighted scholars have ignorantly celebrated courtly love for about a millennium. Study of medieval Islamic literature might help to spur a true renaissance and enlightenment.

Notes:

The above story is from the Ḥikāyat Abī al-Qāsim {The Imitation Abū al-Qāsim}, a work written in Arabic and attributed to al-Azdī. The work and its author are closely associated with Baghdad. It was probably originally written between 1008 and 1020. The work has survived in a unique codex manuscript now held in the British Library as MS. ADD 19, 913. That manuscript, which isn’t the author’s autograph, includes a marginal note dated 1347. St. Germain (2006) pp. 10-14.

St. Germain provides an English translation of Ḥikāyat Abī al-Qāsim, along with extensive notes. For the story above, see id. pp. 287-8. The quotes above are from id., with some insubstantial changes for clarity.

The singing slave girl was Zād Mihr, a historically attested woman. The man in love with her isn’t named. He is described as “a young man who pretended to be an aristocrat of Baghdad.” The young man’s letters to Zād Mihr include symptoms of lovesickness recognized from antiquity.

[image] Portrait of young Egyptian singing slave girl. Painting by
Émile Vernet-Lecomte, 1869. Slightly cropped. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

Reference:

St. Germain, Mary S. 2006. Al-Azdī’s Ḥikāyat Abī al Qāsim al-Baghdādī: placing an anomalous text within the literary developments of its time. Ph.D Thesis. University of Washington.

Article published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

The Gynocentrism of Jordan Peterson

Most by now will have heard the name Jordan Peterson, who has become quite the internet sensation as he tackles the excesses of postmodern philosophy and it’s negative impact on society. His fight against the deconstruction of traditional cultural forms, along with the existential vertigo and nihilism that inevitably follow it are commendable. However there is a question mark over what Peterson deems to replace that postmodernism with, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Peterson works largely, though not exclusively, with Jungian terminology – especially with what Jungians term the ‘archetypal patters’ of human behaviour. Carl Jung was among the first to document universal patterns of behavior among humans which he called archetypal patterns, which he later gave discreet titles such as the child archetype, father archetype, mother archetype, and so on. Jung identified literally hundreds of such archetypes and discovered that classical mythologies also tended to record these archetypal themes in story form.

Jung believed that all people perceive the world through archetypal filters of one kind or another, and are often unconscious of the fact they are perceiving the world through a limited archetypal lens.

With that brief description of archetypes I come back to the question of what Jordan Peterson wants to replace postmodernism with. Does he want to replace it with what was there before it, a wide variety of archetypal forms? The answer to that appears to be no, he has a much more simplistic prescription to fill the void: that men become heroes and women become mothers.

After all the good of cautioning against the excesses of postmodernism, Peterson would unwind it by advocating an equally excessive cult of motherhood as the necessary alternative. He is caught by the spell of what Jungians refer to as the Great Mother Archetype, and doesn’t realize he’s caught.

The overwhelming amount of emphasis, the sheer air time he gives to discussing good mothers, bad mothers, the Great Mother, Oedipal mother, devouring mother, nurturing mother and on and on far exceeds the airtime he gives to other themes. Mentioning career women occasionally here and there doesn’t make the emphasis and less obsessive.

In the early pioneering days of Freud and Jung there was a huge fad of interest in parental figures, especially the mother. Theory has since moved on from mothers and the mother archetype, but classical Jungians and also Peterson are still trapped there. This is the Achilles heel of Peterson’s pitch and it deserves unpacking.

The first thing we need to know about the Mother Archetype is that it is linked to her archetypal son – The Hero.2 In myths and stories around the world we read of Mamma’s hero-son moving through the world slaying dragons, a theme Peterson specializes in discussing.

The possession of Peterson’s mind by the theme of the Great Mother and her son The Hero compels him to ask young men to lift heavy weights, and ask young women to be mothers – great mothers. Anyone with a strong understanding of archetypal psychology will see immediate problems in this proposal.

Here’s an excerpt from post-Jungian James Hillman which I think captures the issue well:

James Hillman on the Great Mother Archetype medium wide

With his monotheism of the Mother, Peterson is single-minded about the possible life options for young men and women. According to Jung the archetypal possibilities for a human life are multiple and varied, therefore living out the Mother and Hero archetypes – Peterson’s preferred template – reduces that variety to singular options.

Asking all young men to be worldly heroes, to lift heavy weights to compliment the maternal principle, and asking young women to be mothers – great mothers – when they may not be suited to motherhood at all, limits the possibilities dramatically and may fly in the face of a person’s calling to be something else entirely.

In order to get past this mother-monotheism we need to lift the Madonna Church skirt to allow all the many archetypal forms – the congregation – to walk out and stand independently on their own two feet. By relativizing the Mother Archetype, by removing that word “Great” that appears before it, we allow it to be just one archetype among many, no more or less important than the rest.

Many men want to be heroes, and women mothers. However there’s a problem resulting from what is left out of that picture. The omission of other archetypal styles and perspectives likely leads people away from things they might be better suited to. For example some men are not called to be worldly heroes and don’t want to be – they might be spontaneous Peter Pan’s, introverts, gay men, Zeta males, bachelors…. or alternatively women might not be first and foremost identified with their wombs and kitchens – they might have a strong desire to be childless and perhaps to pursue some other life calling; to study, to have a career, help the homeless, or whatever.

It’s insufficient to argue that “mothering has its basis in biology” and thus the Mother Archetype is the most important archetype to push. All archetypes have their basis in biology, that’s Jungianism 101 and therein lies the problem: Peterson talks only about mothering as biologically based but does not grant the same for the other archetypal patterns women might enact.

The mother Goddess Demeter is not the only Goddess…. there are others like Artemis (a freewheeling virgin huntress); Athena (a virgin Goddess focused on civic responsibility – Athens was named after her); Aphrodite the Goddess of beauty, sexual pleasure and love; Hestia the virgin Goddess of the hearth; or Hera the Goddess of social power and status just to mention a few. Many of these archetypal figures were not primarily mothers, but nonetheless the biological impulses that give rise to their patternings are equally as valid as those underpinning mothering.

To underline the point more starkly we can say that even the destructive spectacle of feminism that Peterson rightly rails against is a biologically-based archetypal pattern.

To summarize, the great danger in Peterson’s advice is that it narrows the possibilities far too much, and too forcefully in favor of Mother and her Hero son.2 Moreover, many men are tired of the onerous demands placed on them by traditional gender roles, and who can blame them. Traditional gender roles were sometimes workable when held in balance, with careful reciprocity guiding the arrangement. However in modern society the contractual emphasis on reciprocity has gone by the wayside in favor of extracting all you can from the other person and from the relationship. That makes traditional relationships dangerous places of potential exploitation.

Wanting to return to better models of the past doesn’t guarantee we’ll get them, as so many find out. What we get instead are onerous expectations and demands with little payoff – or worse asset loss, parental alienation, false accusations and public shaming, not to mention the psychological sequelae that comes with it.

For men, all mother-serving heroics serve to further an already lopsided gynocentric culture, one asking men to put themselves into the service of marriage and womankind in an environment that is unlikely to provide much if any reciprocal payoff — for women long ago cast off their roles of mother and dutiful wife, and men are now seeing fit to do the same.

Men’s Rights Activists have long known that postmodernism, feminism, and marxist SJW’s are bankrupt. That’s what we fight. Likewise we know that traditional gynocentrism is bankrupt. This article attempts to show that Peterson too understands the bankruptcy of postmodernism, feminism, and marxist SJW culture, which he describes articulately and with passion….. but then proceeds to fumble for a working model to replace it. For him the replacement is a return to traditional stereotypes of mothers, marriage and women-serving heroes. Traditional gynocentrism. The problem today is that neither women nor men are willing to define themselves solely by relation to the opposite sex, which they view as an exercise in exploitation and control…. so Peterson’s solution simply doesn’t work for many people of today.

MRAs have elaborated one solution in the Zeta / MGTOW life orientation that doesn’t view male identity primarily on the basis of how it benefits the opposite sex. And as part of that adjustment many men who want relationships with women – the red pill kind – are beginning to approach them as relationships between peers (Marc Rudov), as intimate friendships, or as forms of non-gynocentric traditionalism…. or they may frame them as something else entirely. What they are doing is weaving a middle path between Scylla and Charybdis, and refusing to swap one poison for another.

Sources:

Videos by Jordan Peterson.
Analysis of Sleeping Beauty
Is it right to bring a baby into this terrible world?
The Oedipal Mother in a South Park Episode
The Positive Mother Gives Birth to the Hero
The Failed Hero Story vs The Successful (Freud vs Jung)
The overprotective mother or ‘how not to raise a child’

Reference:

[1] Hillman, J. Abandoning the Child, in Mythic Figures, Vol 6. Uniform Edition

Notes:

[2] There are a number of variations on the hero theme, as detailed by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Campbell wasn’t a Jungian, and he was suspicious of many Jungian dogmas.

When referring to the hero archetype in the article above I’m referring exclusively to the classical Jungian understanding of that term, and Peterson’s reliance on same. The hero archetype in Jung’s writings is intimately bound up with the mother archetype (being a hero for mother / or fighting against the dragon mother, etc), as contrasted with Campbell’s focus which held that a hero’s journey need not imply mother. Jung’s mother-tied definition of the hero – Mother’s Hero – is laid out in his Symbols of Transformation.

One poster on the Peterson facebook page recently wrote, “The hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell begins by ‘Separation,’ the departure from the status quo. To me this personally I associate this to stepping out of and leaving the gynocentric view of the status quo.” That is a true stepping off into the unknown, a more gutsy hero’s journey, as compared with stepping out into the world as mother’s hero to do her bidding. As Campbell characterized it, the true hero journey entails leaving the mother-world behind and seeking atonement with the father.